Fremont Area Community Foundation awarded $3.35 million to local organizations and programs in its most recent community grant round.

Grant funding was awarded to a wide variety of organizations and projects addressing critical local needs. The grant round included general community grants along with grants targeting each of the Community Foundation’s three focus areas: community and economic development, education, and poverty to prosperity.

The Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency (NC RESA) received a two-year $120,000 grant for its Family Information Service Hub (F.I.S.H.) program. In this program, families work with trusted advisors—individuals who received public assistance themselves—to get help with things like applying for assistance or connecting to housing resources.

In the area of community and economic development, the Community Foundation partnered with the County of Newaygo to support Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam trail with a $500,000 grant. The Dragon is a planned 47.5 mile circular biking and hiking trail around Hardy Pond. Designed and endorsed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the trail is expected to become a premiere regional and national attraction and create new jobs in the area.

Grant Public Schools was awarded a $10,000 grant for its teacher-developed pilot program: Readers Into Leaders. The reading intervention program will pair elementary school readers with proficient middle school readers over the course of three months. In addition to reading support, the pairs will participate in community service projects together.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was awarded a grant to support Vera’s House, a community wellness center. The $14,500 grant will support two programs at Vera’s House. Women in Transition offers support and resources for women who have experienced grief or loss. Project Illuminate is a counseling program that provides access to mental health support and treatment.

Organizations located in or directly serving the people of Newaygo County are eligible to receive Community Foundation grants. Applications for community grants are due on March 1 and September 1.

To learn more about the Community Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, contact a member of the community investment team at 231.924.5350 or visit

After 20 years with the Community Foundation, Mary Huisjen will retire at the end of January.

Callers and visitors to the Community Foundation are often first greeted by Mary, who has served as our receptionist and special projects associate. Mary started at the Community Foundation in November 1998 after working for Gerber Products for 19 years in order invoicing and baby care marketing.

One of Mary’s favorite parts of her job at the Community Foundation has been the wide range of projects she has worked on.

“I enjoyed the variety in responsibilities over my 20 years here,” said Mary. “I knew that no day would be like any other.”

In addition to her role in administrative services, Mary has worked with scholarship recipients and donors, served as an advisor and mentor to the Youth Advisory Committee, and provided key leadership on the Community Foundation’s prairie restoration project. These efforts were recognized on a state level in October when the prairie received the President’s Award from Keep Michigan Beautiful.

“I’ve really enjoyed that here at the Community Foundation we are focused on the community,” said Mary. “That makes you feel good about your work at the end of the day.”

In retirement, Mary is looking forward to traveling, gardening, volunteering, and exploring new hobbies and opportunities. She is also excited to spend more time with her husband Carl and their children and grandchildren.

Our President and CEO Carla Roberts was recently published in The Foundation Review, a peer-reviewed journal for the field of philanthropy. Her article, “From Charitable Giving to Strategic Impact,” details the Community Foundation’s journey toward more strategic grantmaking and increased impact.

In 2011, we launched a community investment strategy focused on education, poverty, and economic development. These strategies were developed with significant community involvement and input into the planning and designed to improve the quality of life for all Newaygo County residents. It took time as well as assistance in the form of backbone services and tools to monitor impact to make the transition to these new ways of thinking. As we’ve moved ahead with our second five-year strategic plan, we are guided by research and learning, community feedback, grantee survey results, and evidence of where the work has contributed to positive outcomes for the people and organizations we serve.

Read the full article HERE.